This is my first trip report. Sorry for the lack of pics, but I was expecting a rather boring trip. I was wrong.
After visiting North Dakota with my family, I was to fly back from MSP to STL. I found a good fare with DL on a route which was to go MSP-MKE-CVG-STL. The first leg was to be on NW with RP ERJs for the second two. I was unable to reserve a seat for the NW flight until check-in and I was able to secure the exit row for the second two.
B757-200 (5600 series)
My family dropped me off at MSP at about 9:15 for a 10:15 departure. I printed my boarding pass at the kiosk and was assigned 38A. Exit rows were offered for $15, but I considered it (being 6'5") but decided it was unnecessary since this was a 40 minute flight. I was wrong there, but it wasn't bad. The security line was fairly long but moved quite well. I went all the way down to the end of the G concourse to where my plane was waiting. I found that general boarding had already begun and immediately boarded the aircraft, which was painted in the DL colors and equipped with winglets.
The flight was only maybe half full. No one was in the middle seats unless they wanted to, and many people, including myself, had an entire section to themselves. We pushed back roughly on time and then didn't taxi. I began to suspect that something was wrong, and in short order the captain informed us that the number 2 bleeds were inop. Naturally we couldn't fly that way and pulled back into the gate. The mechanics first attempted to solve the problem by replacing a computer card, which took about 30 minutes. We then did an engine start at the gate to see if the fix worked. I quickly realized that it hadn't when my vent failed to provide air, once the engine was started. We had to wait for a while more while they actually got in the engine to fix it.
During this time, the flight attendants brought around water and coffee and said that we could leave the plane and speak with an agent. I considered doing so, but our estimated departure was noon, making my connection tight but not impossible, plus I really wanted to ride the 757.
Eventually, the problem was solved and we left the gate right around noon. We taxiied out to runway 17 and took off immediately. The 757 takeoff is everything it was advertised to be. Those things will move, especially when on a short flight with a light load. We rotated and were airborne abeam of the Humphrey Terminal - a little over halfway down an 8000 foot runway. We climbed out to 29,000 where the in-flight service was started, despite some light chop for most of the first half of the flight. Just the standard peanuts/cookies and soda, which were quite good.
Soon we descended into MKE and made a hard left onto final for a smooth landing on 7R. The pilots slammed on the brakes to clear at Romeo and head for the gate. The total taxi wasn't more than three minutes, but it was immediately clear the there was no Chatauqua ERJ parked there.
After deplaning, I quickly checked the monitors to confirm my missed connection and then got in line at the podium. The agent gave me two options - NW through Memphis or an AAConnection ERJ that arrived in STL 4 minutes after NW. I decided to spend the time in the air rather than on the ground and opted for the NW. I asked if any bulkheads or exits were available and the agent booked be for the bulkhead on both flights. I then called my uncle to inform him of my changes and inquire about what equipment I would be on. He informed me that I would have a Compass 175 to MEM and a DC-9-30 to STL, which was fine by me.
Layover in MKE
I had several hours to kill before my flight to MEM, so I sought lunch. There are a few things in the secure area, but most of the food and shopping is outside security, which is fine and in fact I prefer that. As I looked around, I noticed the Mitchell Gallery of Flight. The museum, while small, is packed with interesting information about MKE and local aviators. Some of the info is dated, and the display case of YX memorabilia is a bit saddening to see. I grabbed some Pizza Hut and when back through security after eating. I noticed that the security checkpoint there had a sign saying that uniformed military could use the first class line. I don't know if this is standard in other airports, but it is certainly a nice gesture.
My uncle called me and told me that my plane was inbound from MEM, but would be late due to deviations around some thunderstorms.
The plane indeed arrived late, but was turned quickly. I was seated in 5A, which provides ample leg room, and like any E-Jet, the Compass EMB-175 was very comfortable. As we taxiied out, the captain said we would have to wait a few minutes as he got a new flightplan from dispatch. I feared we would need more fuel, and I was right. We did a 180 on the cargo ramp and went back to the gate for more gas, which would later prove a prudent move. The captain came back to the cabin and introduced himself and explained that we may have to go out almost to Oklahoma to avoid the storms. After 20 minutes or so at the gate we returned to the runway. The trips back to the gate and to the runway again was the fastest I'd ever seen a plane taxi. The takeoff felt downright sluggish after the 757, but at least I was on my way.
We flew out over the lake after departing 7R and made our way south over the western suburbs of Chicago. We flew directly over ORD, and I was able to get a good view of downtown, the Cell, and Soldier Field before getting into the overcast.
As we neared St. Louis, the captain had good news that we would not have to deviate west, and 20 minutes would be cut off of our flight. A bit later he informed us that we had been put into a hold over Walnut Ridge, Arkansas with an estimated time of 40 minutes. He also said that we could hold for a long time, thanks to the extra fuel while other flights were diverting to LIT and BHM. As we orbited, I could clearly see two huge thunderheads to our east and west. Luckily, we only held for a couple of laps before proceding on to MEM. I have to give big props to the dispatcher for our flight, that was a great call on the fuel.
There was some signifcant turbulence on the way down, but nothing dangerous. We made a smooth landing on 36R and made a quick taxi to the gate. My flight to STL was scheduled to leave 10 minutes before I arrived, but was still here according to the board so I hustled from the middle of one leg, to B40 on the end of the other.
When I got to the gate, the plane was there, but no crew. Apparently they had diverted to LIT on the inbound, so we would not leave until about 8:50. Eventually they arrived, but kept us waiting a bit longer while the plane cooled off, which was a nice thing to do. I was able to board with First Class since the bulkheads need the use of overhead space. Eventually we pushed back and started up.
I had forgotten just how great the NW DC-9s are. I know that they are a polarizing topic, but I view them like an old car. Maybe not the best daily driver, but good for a bit of fun from time to time. It was a lot of deja vu, having flown them often on FAR-MSP-STL, and spent a lot of time at STL during the TWA years when I was little. Seeing the blue cockpit through the window, and the sound of the engines as the throttle is edged forward for taxi that sounds like God's hairdryer. They even smell different from other planes, with the wonderful exhaust smell making it into the cabin. Needless to say, it was very cool.
We taxiied out quickly and took off on 18L and headed for STL. The flight was uneventful, and we decended over St. Charles and passed St. Louis Mills on final. If you are ever in St. Louis, that is a great place to watch planes. We landed and cleared the runway quickly. We had to wait for a minute or two on the ramp while an RON ERJ was pushed off of an adjacent gate. We arrived at about 10:20 p.m., an hour and a half behind schedule. The C and especially A concoursed were occupied by RON planes awaiting the morning. After deplaning I walked up into the newly renovated check in area, past the deli (formerly Burger King) and met my grandparents who were waiting outside.
Overall, I have no complaints. The things that went wrong were for the most part out of NWs control, and the crews were very good about keeping us comfortable and happy. All of the NW personnel were completely professional and very helpful. Getting rebooked in MKE took less than 5 minutes. The Compass pilot on my flight was excellent. He was very good about keeping us informed of the situation, and doing his best to minimize it. Compass is an example that not all regionals are created equal. Overall, NW made the best out of a less than ideal situation, and I cannot complain about any of it.